Trusted computing

Consumers need to have trust when they interact with technology, but as the range of devices we use grows, the number of vulnerabilities which attackers can exploit is rapidly increasing. Through methods such as applied cryptography, hardware enhanced security, modelling and security analysis of systems, and verification, we are building security into new technology, providing assurance to the user that they are interacting with a trusted platform.

Case study: Trustworthy voting

Representing a world first, computer scientists at SCCS have developed an end-to-end verifiable electronic voting system which was successfully deployed in the State of Victoria election in Australia in November 2014.

While various ‘e-voting’ systems have been piloted around the world, this system – developed by Professor Steve Schneider and Dr Chris Culnane – for the first time enables voters to cast their vote and verify that the vote has been correctly cast, while also ensuring voting secrecy.

Based on open source code, the system features a printed ballot form with the candidates listed in a randomised order (ie in a different order on different ballot forms). The voter makes their selection and then destroys the list of candidates, retaining and casting their marked preference list for verifiable tallying.

The system was developed in conjunction with the State of Victoria to meet the needs of its 2014 election. With voting compulsory in Australia, the election authorities are obliged to make every effort to enable people to vote, so better accessibility for the blind, partially-sighted and motor-impaired voters was a key requirement. The system also needed to cater for the broad range of languages spoken by Victoria’s citizens and, since Victorian elections are based on the single transferable vote, the ballot is very complex, with voters required to rank a list of around 40 candidates in their preferred order.

Surrey’s verifiable voting system was able to meet these needs and – by incorporating an audio interface – also enable blind and partially-sighted voters to cast a fully secret vote in a verifiable way. In a controlled deployment during the Victoria election, there was a very low level of spoilt ballots (1.9 per cent compared with 4.3 per cent for paper voting), and a survey of voting at the Australia Centre in London, where it was also tested, found that 75 per cent preferred the electronic system to paper voting.

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Surrey Centre for Cyber Security
University of Surrey